Can we stay connected as humans in the Digital Age?

Do social media foster our human connectedness, or isolate us and compromise our privacy? Has technology usurped social interaction, turning us into a society of smartphone zombies? Two books offer some thoughtful points of view:

“Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together” (Penguin, $17, 448 pages): The Digital Age is stripping us of our ability to have meaningful, face-to-face talks, Turkle says, and it’s urgent we reclaim that part of our cultural humanity. She writes, “When I think of parents who are drawn to email instead of a dinner conversation with their children, I am not convinced there is a technological fix for the emotional distance that follows.” Turkle is an MIT professor and acknowledged expert on “the psychology of people’s relationships with technology.”

“Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships and Lives” by Suzana E. Flores (Reputation, $16, 272 pages): The clinical psychologist spent three years interviewing a spectrum of Facebook users, delving into their issues with “friending” and being a “friend” – peer pressure, self-esteem and stalking among them. In one chapter, she writes, “Currently, there isn’t an actual psychiatric diagnosis for Facebook addiction – but there should be,” and goes on to list the nine signs of addiction. One of them: “You’re spending time on Facebook and other social media as a way to improve your mood or escape problems.”

Thrills at Lake Tahoe

Todd Borg lives at Lake Tahoe, as does his fictitious P.I. character, former SFPD homicide inspector Owen McKenna. In Borg’s 14th crime-thriller, “Tahoe Dark, “ McKenna takes on a multilayered case involving kidnapping, murder and an armored-car heist (Thriller Press, $17, 351 pages).

Meet the author at the Sacramento Arts Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 4-6 at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St.; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 18-20 at the Sacramento Harvest Festival at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd. Visit him at

‘Nameless’ in San Francisco

Mystery Writers of America grand master Bill Pronzini is best-known for his “Nameless Detective” series of 40 mystery novels. Or maybe he’s better known for his marriage to and writing collaboration with Marcia Muller, author of the 32-title “Sharon McCone” series.

Either way, both series are set throughout Northern California (including Sacramento), and both series’ protagonists are private investigators with agencies in San Francisco. Which leads to Pronzini’s latest, “Zigzag,” a collection of four fast-moving stories that test Nameless’ street smarts to the limit (Forge, $25, 272 pages). Pronzini and Muller have appeared for the Bee Book Club.

‘Flowers’ in blossom

The plot sounded less than thrilling – two tigers are abducted from a zoo, a case assigned to wise-cracking agent Virgil Flowers of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Turns out “Escape Clause” is the most compelling entry in John Sandford’s nine-title “Flowers” series (Putnam, $29, 400 pages). Sandford’s other MBCA character, Lucas Davenport (Flowers’ boss), has a 26-title series of his own. Sandford appeared for the Bee Book Club in April.

Surviving the world

The world can be a dangerous place, as retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson well knows. To the rescue comes his “100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition,” in which he demonstrates in words and illustrations “how to defend ourselves from present danger and survive in the wild” (Touchstone, $19, 272 pages). In step-by-step format, he explains how to “escape a carjacking, burglar-proof your home, counter a purse-snatcher, spot a concealed handgun, purify water, find food in the mountain, survive an avalanche and escape a riot and human stampede.” Good to know.